10 ways to help a foster parent
Foster parents are responsible for the well-being of kids in crisis & transition. We open our homes because we want to help. What a lot of folks don't realize is that we also open our entire lives to all the collaterols in kiddo's life; ongoing social workers, adoption social workers, lawyers, early intervention specialists, doctors, daycare providers, education providers, to name a few. A lot of people spend a good amount of time at the hospital or in & out of emergency rooms or at the pharmacy. It can be a real challenge. Sometimes we just need to talk about how hard it is.
2. Educate yourself
It's real easy to complain about the system but that does no good for the kids & families who find themselves wrapped up in it. Lots of people are exasperated by the complexity here. Jump online & search for blogs or articles. "A foster care blog." "A foster care journey." "Adoption through foster care stories." "What's it like to be a foster kid." Some resources:
#fostercare #transracialadoption #knittogetherbyadoption #NFCM16
3. Knowledge is power/Word of mouth is powerful
You: "Hey, I've been thinking about how to help kids in care but I can't foster. I'm really not set up for that?
Friend: "Oh ya?
You: "Yea. I've been doing some reading. I think I'm gonna offer to watch Jenny's foster son once a week to give her some time to recharge. We've talked about it & I started the CORI process. You're great with math - maybe you could help with homework?"
Friend: "Hmm. That's not a bad idea. Never thought about it but you have a point."
You: "Let's talk to Jenny & help you get started."
See #1. There's a lot of time spent in cars transporting kids around to visits, appointments, evaluations, school. There are lots of ways you can help here: Time, money, gas cards, offer to carpool, give gift cards, organize a foster kiddo shower, offer respite. Have a car seat that's not expired? Your foster parent friend could make good use of that. Have ideas for fun stuff for kids to do in the car? Put together a bag of optional Making a run to the grocery store or pharmacy? Ask if your foster parent friend needs anything. Offer to be a resource. Get CORI checked & cleared & offer backup. Everyone needs backup. Pool your resources. Kids need a lot. Tx, structure, gross & fine motor activity, things to chew on, books, scooters, helmets, respite, help with homework, mini golf. Sometimes just a couple solid things can have a critical impact.
Ask about dietary restrictions or interests or culturally appropriate options for kiddo's & cook meals for your foster parent friends. They will love you in ways they didn't know existed.
6. Check in during winter
If you live in a place that snows or has tough weather, that gallon of milk or those eggs or that pathway shoveled can be a real blessing for foster parents. If you're a parent, you know how hard it is to strap everyone in the car to run to the store for one or two necessities. Clothes, changed diapers, snacks, into the car, drive (probably some screaming), get everyone out of the car, run into the store, back into the car, drive home, everyone out of the car. Cook breakfast while snowed in? Gah!!
7. Kindness and compassion
Your foster parent friend's life is changing in drastic ways - especially if they have a revolving door or are new to this. Especially if they are white & fostering black children. Folks in their community might not understand & some people even get downright uncomfortable & unhelpful. Your friend might feel isolated. They might struggle to ask for help. They'll definitely be late & more than likely, have to cancel on occasion. Being patient & flexible with your friend is real kindness & compassion. Being patient and flexible with your friends' foster kiddo(s) is really important. Introduce them to foster parenting blogs or Instagram accounts (see #2). There's a solid online community & there are always things to learn.
Really cannot stress this one enough as it can be easy to overlook. There's a lot of stress in the lives of kids in care & the adults caring for them. A $135 membership can go a long way for foster families who need regular activities, gross movement or focused energy. Prices surely range, but here's a few ideas: Science Museum, Children's museum, Zoo, library, YMCA, tot lot.
9. Ask your foster parent friends explicitly how you can be helpful
10. Consider becoming a hotline home
Consider becoming a hotline home. When a child is placed into foster care, sometimes it happens in the middle of the night or in the beginning of a school day. That kiddo is frightened & sad & experiencing a range of pain & emotion. A lot of people don't realize that those kids need a place to stay for that night or that weekend while the powers that be make choices about what's next for them. You could be a "hotline home" or "emergency caregiver" in this situation. Offer a safe place, a cozy bed, good food, and some perspective on what's next for kiddo. You never know, you might find that you actually are made for this.